Small Businesses in India Going Social to Boost Growth

Social business methods have been the trick to increasing the number of customers on the other side of the counter, either real or virtual.

Updated: Oct 8, 2013 10:12:13 AM UTC

It’s time to wake up and there is something more exciting than your early morning coffee, which pulls you out of your bed. You reach out to that smart phone of yours tucked under the pillow and voila! Your day has begun. There is no hiding what happens next. Check and respond to emails and status updates on Facebook and tweet on. Sounds familiar? I am no exception either.

We have reached a stage where we ‘eat, sleep and breathe social media’. Social media has become a mainstream way of communicating - for individuals as well as businesses.

Small businesses today can hardly ignore the impact of going social. A few years ago, most small-business owners worked to get ranked high in Google searches. Today, it is how to increase the followers’ base on Facebook or Twitter? The question remains “Are the small businesses there yet? According to an infographic by MarketMeSuite and Placester, 26% of small businesses are currently spending an hour or more on social media sites.

While large corporations all over the world are leading their countries forward with rapid innovation and expansion, small businesses are playing a vital role in grassroots economic development. Small businesses provide a platform for wider employment and economic opportunity at the local level and, like the small stores and vendors supporting the large anchor store in a mall, the local support larger corporations need to function.


Small businesses getting started in India are no different. There are around 40 million small business owners in India, out of which, around 500,000 have their presence online while there are 23 million small businesses in the US.

They are discovering innovative ways to educate, manage their business and engage with potential customers via mobile networks. If you combine India’s mobile internet proliferation with the natural willingness to tell and share stories, then social business will prevail. India is among the top three fastest growing Internet markets in the world as stated by industry body Assocham and ComScore. "Among the BRIC nations, India has been the fastest growing market adding over 18 million Internet users and growing at an annual rate of 41 per cent.” The report further suggests that internet users in India are expected to touch 350-450 million by 2015-16 and this will act as a catalyst in the growth of SMBs.

Yet small business success in India requires more than tools and technology. Small businesses need to re-imagine business with a social mindset. Even in today’s highly socialized world, many small Indian businesses dismiss the potential of social business, either relegating the idea to the exotic realm of Internet marketing or ignoring the buzz of social marketing as a passing fad.

We see that changing slowly, as India’s baby boomers become more digitally savvy, millennials permeate the workforce and social media becomes a part of daily life. Today’s small and midsize business owner needs to consider two key aspects of the Millennial Effect: how millennials look to consume information and what to do with the valuable data they provide. Think tech-savvy, eager and collaborative. Millennials are self-starters, entrepreneurial in spirit, bringing new perspectives to old ways of doing things. This is no surprise to millennial small business owners, many of whom have are creating successful businesses themselves by crowd sourcing ideas from their peers, who are equally eager to participate and share.

In India we have seen how initially it was hard to make people believe in the concept of online matrimony. Traditionally and culturally, arranged marriages were 'word of mouth' and driven discreetly. Much has changed since those days, as matrimonial websites today are doing everything for the customers - from analyzing the character traits, hobbies, passions to activities done in free time to ensure a "higher propensity to match". It has like an instant filter coffee! The matrimonial sites are now even building online social connections through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, matrimony mobile apps to the members' accounts! All in efforts to provide an enhanced customer experience and improve sales! Small businesses are applying social technologies for collaboration, communication and content management – the connected web of people and assets that impact a given business outcome. These social technologies are then amplified by social media, from blogs and social networking sites to content communities, to reach the most influential audience for maximum brand impact.

In many ways, the balance of power has shifted from the business to the individual. With customers opting social media to get feedback on products, services and procurement methods/channels, a small business relies too heavily on new-fangled social business methods. A small business’ best marketing remains a friendly face behind the counter. Social business methods have been the trick to increasing the number of customers on the other side of the counter, either real or virtual.

The shift in approach to social by Indian small businesses is a huge turning point and is bound to propel their growth and serve as an example for the rest of the world. - Tobby Kakkamthottil, Midmarket and Inside Sales Leader, IBM India/South Asia

Disclaimer: "The posting on this site is my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions."

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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